LINDEN, NJ – Seeking to finish with more wins than losses for the first time since 2018, the Tigers have sufficient experience back to make a run at qualifying for the state playoffs out of North, Group 4.
“We didn’t lose too many players, only four seniors,” said head coach Al Chiola, at the helm of the Tigers since 2015.
Back to lead Linden High School’s spread offense at quarterback is three-year starter Te’Quan Thomas. Chiola said Thomas is receiving interest from Division 2 schools as an athlete.
“He’s a playmaker, for sure,” Chiola said. “He has a lot of confidence running our offense. He’s made tremendous strides with his reads and is a real threat.”
Other returning starters who Thomas will be passing the ball to include senior wide receiver Davon McClintock and junior end Semaj Irving.
“We bring back a lot of experience, with our kids more mature and also leaders,” Chiola said. “Our athletes understand football and have put in the extra time.”
McClintock is also a standout in the classroom and has received interest from Ivy League schools Columbia and Brown universities.
Chiola calls senior Myles Hamilton, another three-year starter, “the captain of our defense.”
Hamilton is committed to Division 1 Fairfield, Conn., school Sacred Heart University.
“The one word I would first use to describe his play is ‘relentless,’” Chiola said. “Myles has a motor that doesn’t stop. He goes hard from sideline to sideline.”
Representing the Tigers
• Te’Quan Thomas, No. 2, senior, QB-DB
• Myles Hamilton, No. 7, senior, WR-LB
• Davon McClintock, No. 3, senior, WR-LB
• Adrian Castillo, No. 53, senior, OL-DL
Key defensive linemen include two-year starting junior ends Kevin Taylor and Shahad Brown.
“They’re leaders on both sides of the ball, including the right side of our offensive line,” Chiola said. “They had good years as sophomores.”
Chiola also expects a big year on defense from junior linebacker Tyrone Hinton. His older brother, Tymir, was a senior player on Linden’s 2014 squad that captured the North 2, Group 5 state championship.
“Tyrone actually plays everywhere for us, on offense, defense and special teams,” Chiola said. “He’s a returning starter at linebacker and is also a quarterback.”
Following losses in their final three regular season games last year and not making the playoffs out of North, Group 4, Linden went on to defeat Barringer High School 41-0 at home and then won at Bergenfield High School 29-22 to capture the first North, Group 4 Regional Invitational Tournament championship.
Linden opened its 2023 season against Frank J. Cicarell Academy at Kean University on Friday, Aug. 18. All proceeds went to a memorial scholarship in the name of former Linden player Xavier McClain, who died last season.
It was the first time Linden and Elizabeth clashed on the football field since Sept. 28, 2019, when the Tigers defeated the Minutemen 28-14.
Elizabeth’s Frank J. Cicarell Academy last defeated Linden on Sept 20, 2016, a 23-10 triumph at Elizabeth’s Williams Field.
2023 Linden Tigers
• Friday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m., vs. Frank J. Cicarell Academy at Kean University
• Sept. 1, at 6 p.m., Rahway High School
• Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., at Woodbridge High School
• Sept. 15, at 6 p.m., Colonia High School
• Sept. 22, at 6 p.m., at Perth Amboy High School
• Sept. 29, at 6 p.m., John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, Iselin
• Oct. 7, at 1 p.m., at Summit High School
• Oct. 13, at 7 p.m., at Cranford High School
• Oct. 20, at 6 p.m., Montgomery High School
Photo by JR Parachini